In a tragedy containing many threads, Randy Constant apparently killed himself in his garage with carbon monoxide poisoning after being found guilty in one of the biggest organic grain fraud cases in history.
Constant, a large grain buyer and distributor, was found guilty of selling $142 million worth of government certified organic livestock feed that was not organic. His brokerage accounted for some 8 percent of the entire U.S. government certified organic grain market.
One of my arguments against the certification process 30 years ago was that it assumed you couldn't trust anybody, but worked only if farmers filling out paperwork were honest. In other words, it's not a guarantee of anything and rides on the honesty of participants. The message to the public, however, is that "since we can't trust farmers, the government will check up on them." But government checking, like is often the case, involves primarily filling out paperwork, which can be manipulated or consciously falsified.
When people ask why Polyface is not certified organic, this is one of the threads in the not-short answer. At Polyface, we've used local suppliers and a local mill that tests incoming feed for bad residues like glyphosate. While these GMO-free farmers may not cotton to all the government certification paperwork, it does not mean the feedstocks are non-organic. It just means we don't participate in the government program.
It would be like assuming a school lunch program not participating in the official USDA-prescribed meal nutrition program can't offer food that meets or exceeds government standards. The Real Organic project sent me pictures this morning of Aurora dairies desert confinement operations, with up to 20,000 cows in one location. No pasture; no organic calf production. Direct violation of organic standards, but that's what goes on rampantly within the industry.
The point is that those of us who are not organic certified are certainly not opposed to organic practice. In fact, many of us far exceed minimal government organic standards. To assume that a government stamp is the only way to verify authenticity is simply ridiculous. The vaccine revolution is a perfect case in point. Is adhering to the official government orthodox vaccination regimen the only way to have healthy kids? Of course not.
So feedstock provenance in livestock is as important as food provenance for your table. One of the beauties of using local sourcing, and a feed mill that we can trust, is that the short chain of custody is easy for us to police. The big organic operations like Shenandoah Organics that buy in their feed from places like Randy Constant, even though they have a paperwork trail up the wazoo, are not as verifiable and trustworthy sources as our local folks.
Think of all those millions of pounds of feed that were sold over several years--remember, 8 percent of the entire U.S. organic feed market--to feed chickens, pigs, and cows that got sold under the certified USDA organic label, were no different than anything from Tyson. And people paid good money, put their faith in a system, and ate chemical-laden fare.
So the question is how do you create a food provenance system you can trust? At the end of the day, "know your farmer know your food" is still a really good answer. And your farmer should not have "No Trespassing" signs. You should visit, look, ask, sleuth and be dubious. That's reasonable. If you're buying a label, you're being duped.
Where do you get your meat?